Tennis team ekes out close wins over rivals

Up against the top team in the CIF-Southern Section, University Irvine, almost all the players on the boys’ tennis team knew that the singles matches could go either way.

After Jordan Abergel ’07 lost his first match, dropping the next two was distinctly possible.

Unfazed, however, Abergel took his second match 7-5 and then proceeded to win his third, pulling away from a 4-all tie to win the last match of the day 6-4. The win helped the Wolverines upset University Irvine on games 82-78 and take the number one ranking in the process.

“When I lost the first set I was a little bit discouraged, but I didn’t really let it get to me because I had taken a little bit of time off and I was just trying to get a rhythm,” Abergel said.

“I kind of put it behind me and went on to play a lot better in the next couple of matches.”

The team was trailing for much of the match but won four of their last six matches against University for the win.

The team also had key performances from the doubles pairing of Elias De Wit ’07 and Alex Wittenberg ’08.

However, the spotlight ultimately belonged to Abergel, whose comeback victory in the last match of the day tied the amount of sets won by both teams at nine.

The four-game margin that the team had over University Irvine was enough for a victory.

“I definitely think it was good because the Harvard-Westlake team is so used to being at the top, at least in the past few years,” Abergel said. “This year, when we went into it not being ranked as high, we were a lot more hungry to win and that team motivated us even more.”
Today the team will travel to Santa Barbara to play the third-ranked team in Division I that features very strong doubles teams. The team opened its season with its first victory on games over Peninsula, 73-62, another top-five team in CIF, and beat Crossroads last Wednesday 12-6, one of the top teams in Division III.

Tomorrow, the team will start the Ojai Tournament, the last tune-up before playoffs begin May 7. The team’s goal is to win the team award, which they have never won before. The team is allowed to enter one singles player and one doubles pairing: Ryan Thacher ’08 will be the lone singles player, with the pairing comprised of Captain Michael Vann ’07 and Nick Patonai ’07.

A rematch with either Santa Barbara or University Irvine is likely in the playoffs. Both regular season matches are on the road, so the team will be well prepared if they’re forced to go back on the road late in the playoffs, head coach Chris Simpson said. Also possible is a rematch with Dana Hills, last year’s CIF champions who defeated the Wolverines 11-7 in the semi-finals to end the team’s 67-match win streak and thwart their chances of a third consecutive championship.

The team this year is anchored by its singles team, which is “the best in the country,” according to Vann. Thacher, the number one player, is the number three junior player in the country and recently won the USTA International Spring Championships. The number two and three singles players, Abergel and Vann, are both ranked in the top 30 in Southern California and are division I recruits.
Thacher’s performance on the court is often overwhelming for opponents. In the University Irvine match, their singles players laughed through their matches with him, raising their hands in celebration whenever they got a point, according to Vann.

“[Ryan’s] pretty much a guaranteed three matches every time he steps on the court,” Vann said. “In any match that goes nine-all, we’re going to win on games because of him.”